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The Futility Of Art In Society

1784 words - 7 pages

The Futility of Art in SocietyIs all art really useless? Many may think not. It is what makes our ordinary life bearable, opening up a whole new way of understanding this extraordinary, beautiful and complex world, since "the artist is the creator of beautiful things" (Wilde Preface). But the quote "All art is quite useless" is simply what it says, art has no real purpose. Throughout the preface of his philosophical novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde praises art. So why did he express this contradicting statement? According to the British book reviewers, the novel offended public morality for its blatantly homosexual undertones. In 1890, when the book was originally published, homosexuality was considered both unorthodox and amoral. Therefore, in 1891, Wilde added an aphoristic preface that defended his innocence. The statement "All art is quite useless" was used to show that art should not be taken literally and should only be admired. In this case, art is his novel, so he wanted the general public to just read his art and admire it, and not to go any deeper than what it says. Wilde analyses how art is futile in The Picture of Dorian Gray through literary elements such as paradox, allusions to Shakespeare and fairy tales, and his frequent use of double life motif.In his preface, Oscar Wilde dares to say that "all art is quite useless" (Wilde Preface). Art has no value by itself. It has value since we give it value because of what it does to us emotionally. Wilde says "It is the spectator… that art really mirrors" (Preface) because we see something in it that reflects ourselves in some way. Art is meant to be admired. It is meant to be appreciated. It is meant to be enjoyed, because if no one enjoys it, the art is incapable of carrying its message. "The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely" (Wilde Preface), so as long as someone places personal value on the art, then it has a purpose. Wilde also talks a lot about admiring beauty just for the sake of beauty. The preface says, "There is no moral or immoral book, only books that are well written or poorly written". It's the open-minded individual to whom beautiful things mean nothing more than beauty, "they are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty" (Wilde Preface). If art is a reflection of yourself, and you look at something and find ugliness, it means that you are corrupt in some way. On the other hand, if you look at something and find beauty in it, even if it is ugly, it means that you are a good person. This is because art is a mirror of the spectator.The Picture of Dorian Gray is filled with paradoxical statements- but this novel seems to be a paradox within itself. Basil tells Dorian, "sin is a thing that writes itself across a man's face. It cannot be concealed...if a wretched man has a vice, it shows itself in the lines of his mouth, the droop of his eyelids...but you, Dorian, with your pure, bright, innocent face, and...

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